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Editorial Boob

ETA: Based on suggestions in the comments, I will be contacting the major publishers to try to find out who to contact if you’ve experienced this sort of harassment from one of their employees.  I will publish that information as soon as I can.

#

Yesterday I posted about the good that was WFC.  Today I wanted to talk about some of the bad and the ugly.

Over the course of the convention, I ended up talking to several different women about a particular editor from one of the major publishing houses.  Each one of these women, all of whom are writers, described how this editor would ogle their chests, give uninvited massages, or explicitly compliment them on their breasts.

The more I heard these stories and thought about them, the angrier I got.  Bad enough when a random creep at a con puts his hands on you without permission, or sits there leering at you.  What do you do, as a writer, when it’s an editor?  Someone who might be able to give you your big break, but could also ruin you, at least at this particular house?

(Gosh, it’s a good thing there’s no sexism in SF/F anymore, eh?)

And what do I do?  I didn’t witness this behavior first-hand.  Oh no, this guy was always perfectly civil around me.  Nor do I feel comfortable telling other people’s stories for them.  Meaning … what?  I just write a vague post about editors who sexually harass writers?

So far, only a few other options have come to mind.

1. I can point out the back up project.  The project does make a good point that, “it is unlikely that a woman who is already being followed around a con hotel by a strange guy will feel as comfortable asking another strange guy to walk with her to her car as she would asking another woman.”  But if you feel comfortable asking me for backup, I’ll say yes.  And if I see this behavior, I’ll do my best to challenge it.  (Hey, he’s not my editor.  The dude has zero power over me…)

2. I can point out that he has little real power over anyone else, either.  Editors are not as powerful as they think.  The truth is, if you’re a good writer, this guy isn’t your only option.  There are other editors looking for good books.  And ultimately, if your writing isn’t ready yet, then it doesn’t matter how much he looks and/or touches you; he’s not going to buy a book from you.  Either way, this individual has no actual power over you.

3. I can point out that you’re not alone.  I know sometimes this sort of thing can make you feel alone, but if you’ve been harassed by some guy at a con or elsewhere, I guarantee you’re not the only one he’s done it to.

I suspect this sort of thing is often overlooked because people tell themselves it’s not that bad.

I think it’s bad enough.  It’s an unforgivable abuse of one’s position as editor.  It’s an inexcusable way to behave toward others.  And it’s not something that anyone should have to put up with.

Thoughts and discussion are welcome, as always.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Tags:

Comments

silverrose
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
You only want people to discuss this who all agree with each other? Because this is your journal and that's absolutely your right.

I can't comprehend what would make someone NOT get up and leave. Call him names if you like, slap his face, but get the *bleep* out of there. As you yourself said, the imbalance of power isn't real. If your book is any good, someone else is going to pick it up. Nobody NEEDS this particular guy. In other circumstances it's usually much the same. Nobody's irreplaceable.

jimhines
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
"You only want people to discuss this who all agree with each other? Because this is your journal and that's absolutely your right."

That strikes me as a somewhat bizarre response. I don't think I ever suggested anything like this, and I'm baffled as to where it came from.

"I can't comprehend what would make someone NOT get up and leave."

I think that's part of the problem people are having. Coercion and power work in a lot of different ways. I get that you don't understand/comprehend this; but it seems like because *you* don't get it, you're dismissing it out of hand, and in the process, dismissing those who do feel coerced or pressured in these sorts of situation.
silverrose
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC)
Regarding the first part, your question "is that where you want to go with this" sounded rhetorical, as if disagreeing about this issue isn't valid or acceptable. And on your journal, if you say it's not then it's not.

There are two ways to deal with a bully: fix the situation, or live in fear. I don't have much sympathy for the "live in fear" camp. I'm not saying lots of us don't start there, but expecting the world to change instead of changing yourself seems a little unreasonable. You can get this one guy fired, but what happens when you run into another one? You have to have internal means of managing your own life.
compost75
Nov. 2nd, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC)
Therefore, you are not in sympathy with the victims. Nice.

I suspect that you have never experienced this kind of situation where the perpetrator held real power over you.
jennygadget
Nov. 10th, 2010 07:13 am (UTC)
Or where you cared about the perpetrator. Or were constrained by other things.

It's one thing to threaten to "take the hand off" of some random person you barely know, it's another to actually do violence to the person you love and until just a few seconds ago trusted unconditionally.
finnyb
Nov. 4th, 2010 12:39 am (UTC)
Just out of curiosity, what if you can't fix the situation, whatever it may be?
pantryslut
Nov. 4th, 2010 04:26 am (UTC)
Yes, this.

I would also be interested in knowing if the commenter above has ever actually "taken off someone's hand." The "don't fuck with me" vibe works really well--I should know, I've got it in spades--until it doesn't.
rj_anderson
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:53 pm (UTC)
Before I was sexually harassed in my (former) workplace, I would have agreed with you. I would even have thought of myself as the kind of person who would stand up and call the guy on that kind of behavior without hesitation, or shout for help, or at the very least give him an icy stare and walk away. It seemed like such an obvious and easy thing to do.

It was not easy. It was not obvious. And sometimes even getting the *bleep* out of there (which I did by going to the back of the office and shutting myself in the washroom) does nothing to address the situation, only defers it for a while. It certainly did nothing to make me feel any less sickened, victimized, or frightened. And this was relatively mild, verbal harassment -- nothing physical.

You can't comprehend a woman being so shocked or intimidated or otherwise overwhelmed by this editor's behavior that she wouldn't take action? Fine, that tells us that you, as an individual, can't comprehend it. But it doesn't do anything to address the problem or stop the guy who's causing it. And it sounds awfully like you're blaming the victims for not being as "strong" as you perceive yourself to be.
silverrose
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
Not strong. Just pragmatic. The world will not change to suit me, so I need to change to suit myself.
trinker
Nov. 2nd, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
"Get to the back of the bus, Ms. Parks."

Cultures change.
joycemocha
Nov. 2nd, 2010 11:51 pm (UTC)
You have no conception what it's like when it happens to you.

I've seen it happen to forceful, strong women in their 50s, and the tool used was not blatant sexual harassment but it was sexual and age discrimination, with potential threat to one's job.

This kind of harassment does not need to be blatant groping to be a problem. And even strong, powerful women suffer from such treatment.

I know. I'm one such. Instead of groping me, however, such personages tend to try other means of "putting the uppity woman in her place."
silverrose
Nov. 2nd, 2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
You're assuming it doesn't happen to me, just because I don't think it's someone else's job to protect me from it?

If I can't handle myself, then I deserve what I get. That's what I think.
jimhines
Nov. 3rd, 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
"If I can't handle myself, then I deserve what I get. That's what I think."

I strongly disagree with you.

Do you extend your belief to others? If they can't handle it themselves, then they deserve what they get?
silverrose
Nov. 3rd, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
That's their decision to make, not mine.

My expectations of myself are high, and I was raised that self-sufficiency was to be a given. I'm aware that not everyone shares my values.
jimhines
Nov. 3rd, 2010 12:35 am (UTC)
I see. I get the sense that further discussion isn't going to go anywhere productive. So for my part, I'll end it by repeating that I believe you're very, very wrong about this. But I sincerely hope and pray you're never in a position to learn that the hard way.
silverrose
Nov. 3rd, 2010 12:44 am (UTC)
I love how everyone's assuming I've never experienced harrassment and I'm just imagining my reaction.

You're right about this not being productive though. It's too bad, because the verdict seems to be that women need to be protected, because we can't possibly be expected to learn to handle confrontation or uncomfortable situations if it doesn't come naturally to us.
rosefox
Nov. 3rd, 2010 12:54 am (UTC)
I think a lot of people are actually objecting to the idea that there is no long-term solution to the problem of men harassing women. You seem to take a fatalistic view; others of us prefer an optimistic view. So from your perspective we're all trying to build weather-control machines that will obviously never actually prevent tornadoes, and from our perspective you're fiercely defending your basement and your right to hide in it.
silverrose
Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:05 am (UTC)
I can see that - I do think any long-term solution is *very* long term; it starts with how we raise our sons, not with smacking down current harassers. To me this means that I - and you, and every other grown woman out there - need to be able to handle ourselves and not expect or need others to do it for us. I've just read a lot of "lots of women can't do that" today, and I think they have to. I don't think it's ok to say "poor me, I was raised to be nice so I can't learn to tell this guy to fuck himself, someone has to do it for me."
rosefox
Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
I think it's less about "I was raised nice" or "I need someone else to save me" and more about a cost/benefit analysis. In most of the anecdotes I've seen posted in reply to you, there's been a serious potential cost to speaking up, and very little potential gain. Sure, you can tell a husband or parent or teacher or boss to fuck off, but then what happens? In many cases, the consequences are (or seem) worse than the harassment. So group action is needed--not "all of you have to save me" but "if I join up with you and you and you and you we can protect one another"--to even out the power imbalances and put pressure on the harassers to shape up, out of fear or shame if not out of understanding why what they did was wrong. Where one person is vulnerable and quiet, a group can be strong and loud.

I certainly agree with you on the importance of the next generation. But having seen many men become more feminist and more thoughtful and respectful around women over the course of months and years, I can't give up on the current generation just yet.
silverrose
Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:19 am (UTC)
We're not talking about those situations- husbands and bosses - we're talking about a propspective editor. So you find another one! If people were generalizing my remarks to other situations, that's their misinterpretation and I didn't catch it when it happened.
icecreamempress
Nov. 3rd, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
We're not talking about those situations- husbands and bosses - we're talking about a propspective editor. So you find another one!

It's not that easy, for Christ's sake. The publishing industry is so fractionalized that there may be only one editor doing urban fantasy steampunk or whatever your new project is, and if you "Just Walk Away" from that person because he's harassing you, you may not have another opportunity.

I don't know who you are or what you do for a living, but you are either out of touch with the state of affairs in the publishing industry or being wilfully ignorant.

It should not be the case that professional opportunities are limited to only people who are not harassment targets of the individual who has that opportunity in their gift. Just Walking Away doesn't do anything to change that state of affairs; in fact, it perpetuates it.

Which is not to fault people who choose to walk away, because not everyone has to fight every fight. But your advising people not to advise people to fight or to try to change things is like a big toxic Stockholm Syndrome dump, and I really think you should stop.
trinker
Nov. 3rd, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
I don't understand why that's what you think everyone is saying.

But the end-product of what you're espousing, in your own words, seems to be "if you can't protect yourself, whatever happened to you is your own damned fault, and you should not get any sympathy nor other recourse".

If that's not what you mean, you should know that's how you come across.

Now, I *hope* what you mean to say is, "everyone should learn how to deal with this sort of thing". But I think what's going on is that you get this a *lot*, and that if you pursued every single instance, you'd go nuts. So you've learned to brush a lot of it aside.

But there's a difference between casual encounters, and something more serious from someone you might have to have ongoing interaction with. And this sort of thing needs to be solved *before* you ever encounter that guy. The only way that can happen is if it's clear up front that there will be a cost to trying to do this sort of thing.

It used to be okay to exclude women from all sorts of occupations. That's not true any more. The world changes, and it changes do to the efforts of individuals working as a mass.
jimhines
Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
"I love how everyone's assuming I've never experienced harrassment and I'm just imagining my reaction."

I never stated nor made that assumption, and I'd appreciate you not putting words in my mouth.
silverrose
Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:16 am (UTC)
"I sincerely hope and pray you're never in a position to learn that the hard way."
jimhines
Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:22 am (UTC)
I am perfectly aware of what I wrote.

Nowhere do I say you've never been harassed. Nowhere have I made that assumption.

My only assumption about you, in fact, is that you *have* experienced harassment ... presumably in situations where you were free to walk away.

And I continue to hope and pray you never have to experience a situation where, for whatever reason, you lose that freedom and learn the hard way that sometimes "just walk away" is not a simple or viable solution.
lenora_rose
Nov. 3rd, 2010 03:32 am (UTC)
Or perhaps people are reading your remarks to imply that women who can't handle themselves or walk away don't deserve to be protected, because that was their choice. (Even if you are limiting this to situations where there isn't a power imbalance, or the apparent power imbalance is illusory, and grant that people in genuine power imbalance might need more help.)

Unfortunately, that privileges the school of hard knocks over any other means for teaching a woman who to handle herself.

I'm willing to protect the woman who can't protect herself right now, and teach her how to protect herself later. The teaching is as much a long term goal as teaching the jerks to be less jerk.
stegoking
Nov. 4th, 2010 07:47 am (UTC)

Everyone can be put in situations where they 'can't handle themselves.' I'm thrilled that you have never faced such a situation, but that is luck more than anything, IMO.

This philosophy is so... childish and ill-conceived that it's terrifying.

silverrose
Nov. 4th, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
Everyone can be put in situations where they 'can't handle themselves.'

Well of course, but that's how we learn. Fall down, get up, try again. Sitting on the ground waiting for someone else to help you onto your feet doesn't accomplish anything useful.

This philosophy is so... childish and ill-conceived that it's terrifying.

*shrug* I've always been grateful my parents raised me to take care of myself and not expect others to fight my battles or rescue me. Obviously YMMV.
eefster
Nov. 4th, 2010 09:07 pm (UTC)
I understand that you may feel piled-upon, but this is so dismissive that it's really frustrating. Especially that last line, as though stegoking is "obviously" totally in need of rescuing. (I know him. He isn't.)

As stegoking just said, everyone, including you, can be put into a situation where you can't handle yourself. Until it happens, and from your own words it sounds like it never has, you have no idea what that's like. It is really coming across as judgemental for you to proclaim what is and is not worthy of sympathy based on something for which you have no actual experience. (Again, based on your own words.)

There are genuinely battles you cannot fight for yourself. There are genuinely situations you cannot simply walk away from. There are genuinely reasons why your one solution (walk away, ignore it, or just don't let it bother you) will not work for everyone at every time. To state outright that anyone who cannot fight every single battle as being "childish" or "badly taught" or whatever, and not worthy of support, is, frankly, coming across as incredibly self-centered and entirely lacking in empathy.
silverrose
Nov. 4th, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
"Obviously YMMV" = everyone isn't raised with the same values and expectations. I haven't said anything personal toward anyone in this conversation (how could I? I don't know any of you?) and would never presume to guess who expects to be rescued and who doesn't -- though if you've been reading you'd realize I don't believe anyone "needs" it.

Also, I never called anyone "childish", "badly taught", or " not worthy", though the self-centered and lacking in empathy part is probably true.
nancylebov
Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
I think that's a somewhat risky strategy. If you have a history of handling harassment in a way that satisfies you, then you get some self-congratulation and some incentive to continue standing firm.

However, if you ever run into something you can't handle well (enough threat or personal forcefulness or something subtle enough to sneak up on you), you'll be adding to the pain by beating up on yourself.

What would you say you gain by adding "I would deserve what I get" into the mix, rather than just making it something like "standing up for myself is a strategy that works very well for me"?.
(Deleted comment)
moiread
Nov. 4th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you. As someone who was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused as a child, and who still struggles with PTSD after the years-long process of trying to become an even-keeled, empowered non-victim, I really appreciate your comment.

Not everyone has the luxury of being so empowered, and I really don't appreciate being told that I deserved whatever I got. Even if silverrose was only referring (and I suspect this is the case) to situations like the kind that happened to me later in life, where there weren't such obvious power imbalances as parent/child or adult-neighbour/child anymore, it's still neither true nor fair. My past experiences automatically made it unequal footing and put me at a disadvantage regardless of whether someone else might have seen it as a level playing field. And that's not sad or pathetic or weak! It's just the practical reality of the situation.

I, too, have learned from the school of hard knocks and have come out pretty damn tough in the end, but that doesn't mean I started there and it doesn't mean the position I used to be in is somehow invalid or, worse, invalid and also my own fault.
sylvanstargazer
Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
You don't deserve that kind treatment, no matter what you do or don't do. It saddens me that anyone would think that they would.

I hope you can stop blaming yourself.
ginmar
Nov. 8th, 2010 02:20 am (UTC)
If I can't handle myself then I deserve what I get.

Does this apply everywhere somebody is bigger and stronger than you? And to other people? Because the only who 'deserves' to get anything is the one doing the harassing.
samhenderson
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
OK, I can't "comprehend," in that I can't imagine myself being in the situation, why a woman in an abusive relationship wouldn't just get out of it. But in fact there's a lot of reasons why she might not - fear, conditioning, having no other resources, and me not having experienced those doesn't make them not so.

There are many reasons why someone wouldn't act as you (or I) think appropriate. Bewilderment that it's even happening -- someone who behaves outrageously to someone who doesn't expect does often have the advantage. Fear (if they slap them) of being hurt. The social conditioning of oh-so-important female politeness. Not knowing if this is somehow normal in this world. Fear of being ridiculed. Fear of seeming hysterical. Fear. Etc.
dlandon
Nov. 4th, 2010 12:49 am (UTC)
With respect...
what would make someone not get up and leave?

She's at dinner, with a table of one or two other authors and this editor. A struggling new writer, the chance to spend an entire meal pitching your work to a well-respected editor (you think), is too good to pass up. The meal continues, good conversation is had by all...and the other member at the table gets up to go to the bathroom, leaving you with the editor. Whose comments get out of line. Your friend comes back from the bathroom and conversation returns to normal. Or, conversely, later on in the con you see him in a hallway and wave (thinking to yourself, "OMG, how cool, I know a real editor!") and he makes a comment then. I don't know many women - even strong, forceful women - who would feel comfortable standing up from a table with other people at it and walking away.

The social pressure to 'behave' in this context is huge - after all, who wants to be the woman who quote/unquote overreacted? The urge to justify to yourself said editors' behavior (He didn't mean it, I must have heard wrong, maybe he'd had a bit too much to drink)? Also huge. Especially if said editor expresses an interest in your work and asks you to send him a manuscript. Sure, there are other editors, but what if you really want to work with this house? What if you don't get face time with any of these other editors? Why not just shrug it off, hope it was a one time thing, and focus instead on hopefully selling your novel?

I could give more examples, but I find it a bit...facile of you to claim that it's easy for women to just get up and leave. A lifetime of being indoctrinated by our society to behave, and on the rules of polite and socially acceptable, behavior, are not easily overcome.

- D
dichroic
Nov. 4th, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC)
This is the wider question of "why does anyone put up with abuse?" And you know what? I don't get it either, not at a gut level. That's OK, I don't have to get it - but I do believe it's true because I've seen too many strong women, too many women I respect, end up in that situation. I don't have to get it, I only have to trust the evidence of my eyes ... and my friends.


(Also, I realize that not getting it is mostly a result of luck on my part.)

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